Today we're kicking off our month-long celebrations for the amazing
In our first post, we'll take a look at the Pretty Boy books, plus Man Crush. We also have a list of Isobel's favorite things and a change to win one of her books!
First up, Fall Together (Pretty Boy #1)
Two hearts collide on a London rush-hour Tube train. Artist Emily Raven really has no choice in getting up close and personal with model Pieter Bayer when they are pushed together in a crowded train carriage. Their close proximity kindles a conversation, which leads to them discovering they have an acquaintance in common—art director Darien Hollgoode. So when Pieter invites the artist to accompany him to the photo shoot he’s heading to, Emily decides it’s a perfect opportunity to catch up with her roguish old friend Darien, and spend time with her gorgeous new friend, Pieter.
Weeks later, a simple, passionate kiss leads to Pieter and Emily deciding that they want more, and, throwing caution to the wind, they begin a deeply erotic affair.
However, the couple have friends who are not so happy about their blossoming relationship. Pieter’s best-friend Simeon is secretly in love with him, and Emily’s manipulative old friend, Darien, holds an explosive secret to Pieter’s past that will change everything.
Set between Berlin and London, this beautifully life-affirming erotic romance story tells of how two damaged hearts learn to love again, and in loving each other, rediscover themselves.
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Secondly, Sweet Thing (Pretty Boy #2)
French male model Simeon Duchamp has a lot of explaining to do
Two years after a breakdown fueled by unrequited love, drugs, and booze, Simeon is clean and wants to stay that way. On his road to reclaiming his life and modeling career, Sim first needs to apologize to the man he hurt the most -his ex-best friend Pieter Bayer. Pieter now has a long-term partner, artist Emily Raven with whom he shares a baby son, and so Simeon is amazed when Pieter accepts his apology and invites him into his life again.
Closeness to the object of his obsession sees's Simeon's longing for his friend rekindled, but then Simeon meets a troubled older man who turns his world upside down. Simeon has to decide whether to allow himself to fall for the man who wants him or pine for the man he can never have.
Simeon Duchamp took a steadying breath. He peeked out from behind the willow tree and exhaled a deep sigh of relief. After an hour of waiting, he saw his quarry at last. Simeon gazed longingly at the rangy figure of thirty-year-old Pieter Bayer strolling down Simsonweg and into Berlin’s Tiergarten, the public park in the heart of the city. It had been two years since he’d spoken to Pieter, his one-time best friend and the object of his undying affection.
Sim’s therapist had suggested meeting Pieter again for the sake of closure. He wanted to apologize for the cruel stunt he’d played two years earlier—leaking false information to the fashion media, saying that Pieter was turning his back on all of his contracts and leaving the industry. It had caused a furor, with Pieter due to walk at the Paris shows and work with a list of high-end clients and long-term contracts.
At the time Simeon had been drunk, high, and heartbroken because Pieter found love with a British Painter, Emily Raven. Sim had been in a spiteful mood and wanted to trash Pieter’s reputation—but in the end, he just destroyed his own.
It was a warm spring day in March. Simeon watched his willowy ex-friend move gracefully toward him along the wide, tree-lined pathway. He felt the ball of longing and anxiety wrestling in his chest. Pieter was just so effortlessly lovely to gaze upon. Simeon felt the pang of loss keenly. He rested his head on the rough bark of the willow tree and sighed. Pieter’s hair was a natural sandy blond and it was longer than Sim recalled, tied in a tail, and resting below his shoulder blades. He still wore his signature black jeans, but with a petrol blue, short-sleeved T-shirt and a strange fashion backpack—front pack? Simeon couldn’t decide. Pieter still looked so young, but healthier, happier. He appeared to be chatting to himself, and Simeon wondered whether he was on a Bluetooth call.
Simeon was torn. Should he just leave and continue to be nothing more than a bad memory in Pieter’s mind? He scolded himself; he had to do it this time. He’d followed Pieter through the park several times over the past few days, admiring from afar, but always chickened out on approaching him. Pieter strolled past the tree, and Simeon gathered his courage and stepped from under the Willow boughs.
“Peety?” he called, his timbre soft, camp, and French.
Pieter stopped and turned toward the voice. He smiled widely when his eyes met Simeon Duchamp. Simeon looked older, how long had it been? Two years? Simeon had cut his hair and was now sporting a short back and sides with long bangs. It made him look elfin rather than more masculine. It was a cute look, Pieter mused. Simeon was staring at him with a look of wonder in his dark doe eyes.
Simeon heard a whimper from the ‘front pack’, and Pieter laid his hand upon the weight and bent his head to kiss it.
“Shh, Little Bird, we’ll be off again in a moment“, he said in German.
Simeon gazed in awe as Pieter unfolded the covering flap of the ‘front pack,' to reveal his small, blond-headed baby. Pieter’s body swayed as he calmed the bundle strapped to his chest. Simeon’s breath caught in his throat.
“Shall we walk? He always has to be moving to fall asleep.“ Pieter strode off, and Simeon scurried to match his step, walking beside him in silence, offering sidelong glances at Pieter and his baby.
“How have you been Sim?“ Pieter asked conversationally, not a hint of malice in his voice.
“Um... unwell... for a while. Papa sent me to Rehab. But you know that, don’t you. I’m off the pills and booze for a year now,“ he explained hurriedly. “I wanted to say... My therapist advised that, for the sake of closure I see you. I wanted to say how sorry and ashamed I am about what I did to you. I was so messed up in the head, Pieter. I know it’s no excuse, but I’m sorry for hurting you.“
Pieter spied an empty park bench. Noting that his baby slept soundly now, he headed towards it with Simeon in tow. They sat, and scavenger pigeons gathered around their feet. Simeon kicked out, and the birds took to the wing in a panic.
“What’s your baby’s name?” Simeon inquired.
“Lukas, he’s four months.”
“Wow,” Simeon stared reverently at them both, tempted, but not daring to reach and caress the baby’s soft rosy cheek. The ball of loss still ached in his chest.
“Fatherhood suits you—Looks good on you—Not that I’m saying he’s an accessory or anything. Are you still with his mother, are you happy? Sorry, none of my business,” Simeon babbled.
Pieter grinned, same old Sim! “Me and Emily and Lukas are very much in love and very happy, Thank you. We’re moving out of the City soon. We bought a house with a big garden beside the River Havel. Emily’s second exhibition’s opening at the Franzen tonight, you know. We’re giving Mama a break, aren’t we Little Bird,” Pieter said, as he absently caressed his son’s slumber-pinked cheek. Lukas’s lips were pursed, sucking as he nursed an invisible nipple.
“You’re welcome along, Sim,” Pieter added thoughtfully.
“Seriously? Will she not kick my skinny ass out the door? I’ve heard she can get territorial about her mate.”
Pieter chuffed a laugh at the comment, careful not to wake his son. “Emily doesn’t take any shit. She’s a grounded, straightforward person and she’s very understanding. She made me see what you did from other angles. I bet she knows you better than you know yourself.”
“Is that right?”
“She won’t tolerate any of your drama Sim, but if you can keep a lid on it, and I tell her I invited you, she’ll understand,” Pieter paused for a moment.
“Everything happens for a reason, Sim. I hated you for a long time. But she helped me to see; it’s just a waste of energy, you know. It was a fucking nasty thing you did, but in the end, it meant that you got the help you needed, ja? And for me, it helped me realize what I wanted for my future, away from the fashion industry. It all seems to have worked out for the best, don’t you think? You look well, and you’re working again, and I have my arms full of love. All sins are forgiven. Move on, and be happy Sim,” Pieter stated pragmatically.
Simeon’s reverent gaze caught the blue-gray eyes of his friend. They smiled at one another in shared understanding. Simeon felt humbled. The weight he had carried in his heart for so long start to shift a little.
“I’ve really missed you, Pieter. I mean it”,
©Isobel Starling 2018
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And third in our line-up today, Man Crush
When Marcus's assistant Kyle neglects to send him the report he'd been waiting for and goes to lunch, Marcus has no option but to poke around on his errant employee's computer. He finds that his assistant spends more time browsing than working, and his favorite site is Undr, a website where men post covertly taken photos of hot men traveling on the London Underground.
Marcus is drawn to a photo of a man who was given the moniker "Java Joe". The man has a fanbase of gay men and straight women who take secret photos of him as he travels and upload them to the website, then discuss his attributes.
Over the next few weeks, Marcus becomes obsessed with seeing the next secretly taken image of the man. Heading for an earlier train one morning, he happens upon none other than "Java Joe" in the flesh.
Unable to prevent closeness on the packed morning train, Marcus and his man crush get caught in a crush of bodies... and sparks fly.
“Damn it, do I have to do everything myself?” I roared to the empty office. I put the bitten apple down on my desk and stood abruptly; then I stomped out of my office and into the small anteroom Kyle used as his office. His desktop computer was still on and logged into the office intranet, which was against company policy. We were all told again and again by IT that we must log-out when we leave the building.
I sat down at Kyle’s desk, noticing a bag of Gummi Bear’s had been spilled over the tabletop, and there were two old take-out coffee cups. I gritted my teeth. His desk was a mess. Was he just drinking coffee, and eating sweets all day? What if a client had come in for an impromptu chat? I decided that I would have ‘words’ with Kyle on his return.
I shuffled the chair closer to the desk and clicked Kyle’s computer mouse. The screen lit up, and I scowled when I saw Kyle had been surfing the internet on office time when he should have been compiling my bloody report. I was furious. My anger felt like a burning ball wedged at my solar plexus. It was the last straw. If I kept this guy on I was going to have a heart attack before I turned forty next month.
The browser opened on the landing page for a website I’d never seen before. The site was called Undr, and the design appeared young, colorful, and fresh. From my first impression, I wondered if it was a TV extra’s website, or maybe modeling. I stared at the screen, my fury bubbling under my skin. So THIS was what I paid him for? My eyes fixed on a photo of a, quite frankly, ‘smokin’’ hot man wearing running gear. He was standing in the aisle of a London Underground Tube carriage gripping a chrome pole to steady himself. His sweatpants clung to his bubble butt, and his sleeveless vest ensured the tribal tattoos on his arms were on full display. My ‘other brain’ perked up and took notice.
With such a heavy workload and bucket-loads of stress, sex was the last thing on my mind, and, honestly, these days my libido was so low that if I could get an erection, it would be a miracle. My single status didn’t help either. In my younger days, I was very sexual, but I just didn’t have time to date, and when I did have spare time I was too exhausted to move my butt any further than to the couch, with a pizza, wine, and the remote control.
The man on Undr was a beautiful chunk of masculinity, and admittedly if I’d seen him on the London Underground, I would have paid attention too.
I scrolled through the images on the site and now understood that I was not, in fact, looking at modeling shots, as I’d first thought. Undr was a website where gay men and straight women anonymously uploaded photos of attractive strangers they saw while riding the London Underground. Viewers could rate the attractiveness of the men in each image and discuss attributes they liked and disliked about them.
It was shallow, and honestly, I felt uncomfortably like a bit of a pervert as I scrolled the images, hating myself, but I was unable to stop. Surely this website must be illegal? I was aghast that it could be okay to take a photo of a stranger and upload it to the web for judgment by the whole world. But as I scrolled, a line-up of totally hot men passed my eyes. My rational, logical, moral brain fought with my dick. Its sudden attentiveness surprised me—there is still life in the old lad! When I happened upon an image of a tall, dark-haired man wearing a white shirt, I stopped scrolling. The shirt he wore clung to silhouette the musculature of his torso, and tight suit trousers effortlessly displayed athletic thighs and a biteable ass. My neglected dick got the victory it deserved.
“Ho-leey Fuck!” I was glad I was alone in the office because I prided myself on having impeccable manners while at work. Beneath the image of the attractive man, the uploader, D-dawg, had given the man in the photo the moniker of Java Joe. Underneath that, the location the photo was taken at, the time, date and ‘other’ details were listed. As I avidly read on, I discovered that the man named Java Joe had been labeled so because when he’d exited the train carriage, D-dawg noticed the embroidered logo for the Java Joe coffee chain on his shirt. Java Joe had been photographed on a Northern Line train between Highgate and Archway at 6:50 a.m. last Wednesday, but D-dawg was unsure which station the man got on at. He did share that the man alighted at Waterloo Station at 7:15 a.m. It was the very same station I got off every day at too, but I traveled to work an hour later than Java Joe.
I scrolled through the comments and saw that other users covertly located Java Joe on morning and evening trains and also photographed him. In fact, it looked like this thoroughly handsome man had a large fan base of stalkers.
I was repulsed and affronted on his behalf. He was clearly being fetishized, but still, I could not stop myself from staring at him and hungrily scrolling down to the next image on the page. I wondered if he was aware of the unprecedented online attention. If I thought too long I knew I would find the whole thing creepy, but his body was incredible, and when I found a close-up shot of his rugged face and his soulful eyes, something seemed to snap inside me. I knew then I had to find out his orientation, and if he was available.
© Isobel Starling
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My five favourite things: Simple Pleasures
1. My Bed. Sleep is a rare pleasure for me as I suffer from intermittent insomnia, so when I do relax enough to sleep my bed is my most favourite place to be.
2. A good audiobook read by an amazing narrator. This is one of life’s simple pleasures and goes hand in hand with my bed. I love curling up with a huggy pillow and being read to by a talented narrator.
3. Comedy – If you can make me laugh you’re onto a winner. I love comedy. When I go to gigs it’s usually British stand-up comedy, I also have a soft spot for improvisational comedy. I love it when a group of talented actors work together and can pluck the funnies from the air just using audience suggestions.
4. Roast dinner-My food tastes are very simple. I can’t stomach spicy food so a well made roast dinner- chicken or beef with all of the trimmings always hits the spot.
5.Massage – I love having a back massage with lovely scented essential oils.
More about the author:
Isobel Starling spent most of her twenty-year professional career making art in Ireland. She relocated to the UK and, faced with the dreaded artist’s creative block, Isobel started to write and found she loved writing more than making art. Isobel is currently working on her sixteenth book. The Shatterproof Bond series is an Amazon Gay Romance bestseller and is being translated into French with Juno Publications, German with Deadsoft Verlag, and Italian with Quixote Edizioni. The series is also available as audiobooks, narrated by Gary Furlong.
“Fall Together” and “Sweet Thing” will be translated into French by Reines- Beaux Publishing.
“Silken” is in audio, narrated by Gomez Pugh. “Silken” is also available as a German translation, and will be translated into Italian, and French in 2018.
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Thank you for celebrating this fabulous author with us. Come back next week for more of Isobel's books, five little-known facts, and another chance to win.
Until then, happy reading!